Monday 10 November 2014


Live review

Town Hall, Birmingham

Individually Steve Knightley, Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes are excellent and respected musicians, put them together as a trio and they put on a superb show which was the case in Birmingham.

Miranda Sykes with Show of Hands,
 Steve Knightley and Phil Beer
Their faultless and versatile abilities on a wide range of instruments and their easy and friendly manner and chemistry on stage made an almost two hour show in the ornate surroundings of Town Hall, Birmingham just fly by and of course left you wanting more.
Without a support act. the trio walked on stage with both Beer and Knightley on guitars and Sykes with her trademark double bass and went straight into Be Lucky with Knightley on lead vocals and Beer and Sykes adding the backing harmonies.
Beer then picked up the fiddle he plays so well which was appropriate as their next offering was the Blind Fiddler and was a really great way for him to show just how gorgeous the Exminster musician's fiddle playing sounds.
The instrument swapping went on all through the set with only Sykes staying glued to her double bass, so anyone who claimed to be not getting their money's worth was way off kilter.
Knightley then switched to his ukulele while also providing the vocals for The Old Lich Way which was a haunting ballad coloured by the voice of Sykes and told the story of the track where they carried coffins to church. They followed this with Go Light the Lantern which has been described as the best Hallowe'en song ever and it does have a general festive feel to it. Although there were only three of them on the night you can see this one being made with a full choir and wouldn't be out of place as the Christmas single.
Beer had another change as he picked up the mandolin for the Preacher which then gave way to I'll Haunt You. With Remembrance Day looming they appropriately played one from the album Centenary which is a collection of poems and songs marking the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI. The voice of Jim Carter, who millions will know as the butler Carson in Downton Abbey, came over the soft playing of the trio before they took over with Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire which segued into The Lads in their Hundreds.
Elvis' secret love child? Phil Beer

The following Sunday as part of the whole remembrance package on BBC TV they also got to play a short piece on the Andrew Marr show.
In the second half Knightley walked on stage alone and sang Widecome Fair unplugged then came the smooth sounds of the fiddle and everyone in the hall became aware of Beer hiding among the audience up in one of the balconies.
With the three of them back on stage now they launched into Sweet Bella which Knightley explained was his homage to rock 'n' roll and with just a flick of his hand he hand the audience singing along in the chorus.
After hinting at the possibility that Beer may have been Elvis' secret love child, takes some believing obviously, they moved into one of their best known offerings the gorgeous and atmospheric Crow on the Cradle.
With another track taken from Centenary they performed one of the most moving songs of the night The Gamekeeper as it's titled on the album but Knightley simply called it The Keeper to clear up any possible confusion.
Deviating slightly and with just Beer and Knightley on stage the former took up the slide guitar and the latter added the gob iron to his guitar for a rather laboured version of Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice.
Miranda Sykes

Beer was then left on his own to sing the wonderfully traditional Jack Frost Away as a solo on guitar then it was Syke's turn for her solo spot where she showed what a beautifully rich voice she has with her a Capella version of Going To The West.
Back they came again as a trio with Knightley this time on bouzouki, for Santiago which led into some incredible fiddle playing from Beer where he finished off the song with a hoe down piece which got the audience clapping with real gusto. They slowed things down towards the end with Knightley singing The Man I Was which gave way to Beer's rasping fiddle for the Innocents' Song which he took out with another great fiddle solo finale.
Towards the end they pulled out the crowd pleaser of Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed from their album of the same name. They played out the set full pelt with Galway Farmer and once again with just a flick of his hand Knightley had the audience joining in.
Show of Hands are an incredibly professional outfit, their shows are slick, entertaining, amusing, thoughtful and most of all full of fantastic music and singing.

Show of Hands are playing the Severn Theatre, Shrewsbury on November 22. 
The album Centenary - Words & Music of the Great War is out now on Mighty Village Records.

Phil Beer has a new album out called Plays Guitar and Fiddle, Sings a Bit and is available on the Talking Elephant Label and through Proper Music.

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